Policy Notes: Business Expense Policy

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Policy Pertaining to:

Policy Pertaining to All Business Expenses

All expense reports must include a clear statement of the business purpose for the expenditure.

Category Policy
Advances, Reconciling (Clearing)

• If the business need for an outstanding advance ceases to exist, the funds advanced must be returned immediately to Travel and Reimbursements in the form of a check made out to Stanford University. See How To: Return Unused Advance Funds.

• Advances not cleared by expected clearing date will be cleared, whenever possible, from subsequent reimbursements for the same payee indicated on the advance.

• If an advance is not cleared within 60 days of the completion date of the trip or activity, the advance will be forced-cleared by Disbursements and the amount of the advance will be reported as income to the individual who received the funds, under IRS rules.

Approving Expenses

• Employees cannot authorize / approve travel or expenses for themselves or for a person to whom they report either directly or indirectly.


• Original receipts are required for expenses of $75 or more.

• Each meal receipt should correspond to an individual expense line.

• If an original receipt is not submitted as a backup document, some form of proof of payment, such as a credit card statement, must be submitted.


• Tips should not exceed 20% unless there is a mandatory charge for a large group.

When to Submit an Expense Report

• Within 10 days of incurring expense, or 10 days after completing travel

• Per federal regulation, expenses reported after 60 days of incurring the expense (trip, meals, supplies, etc.), will be reported to the IRS as taxable income.

60-Day Expense Request / Travel Card Expense Process

• Per federal regulation, expenses reported after 60 days of incurring expenses, will be reported to the IRS as taxable income. See Policy Notes: Business Expense Policy or Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.3 Reimbursable Expenses.

• If an expense request, Travel Card, or PCard transaction for an employee is determined non-compliant, the payee and preparer will be notified of the required action to take, should they wish to submit an exception within the specified timeframe.

• A request for an exception should be sent by the payee or preparer to the Financial Support Center within 30 days of the notification and should include:

  • Detailed justification for the exception
  • Identification as to whether the non-compliant decision was administratively related and, if so, what corrective measures were taken to prevent future delinquent reporting

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Specific Business Expense Policy

Business Meals

Stanford's guidelines (inclusive of alcohol) on meal costs is:

Meals Suggested Amount per Person
(amounts include tax, tip and alcohol; Alcohol expense should not exceed $15 per person, per event, before tax and tip)
Breakfast $12 – 20
Lunch $18 – 35
Dinner $36 – 80

Travel meals are expected to be on the lower end of the range. Depending on the meeting purpose and location, the higher end of the range may be appropriate for business meals.

  • Amounts paid should be "reasonable and necessary."
  • Expense reports must state business purpose and reason for the meeting.
  • Individual attendees must be listed in the expense report or backup documents unless a specific identifiable group is noted.
  • Alcohol must be charged to unallowable expenditure type and unrestricted PTA.
  • Taxes and tip must be charged to unallowable expenditure type and unrestricted PTA.
  • The guidelines are inclusive of alcohol (amounts include tax, tip and alcohol).
  • Alcohol expense should not exceed $15 per person, per event, before tax and tip.
  • Spouses should be included only when appropriate, and always charged to unallowable expenditure type.
  • Receipts itemizing charges, with names of attendees, and proof of payment such as the signed credit card receipt must be submitted with the expense report.

See also Expense Guidance for Business Meals.

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Conference Fees

  • The conference program or agenda should be submitted with the expense report as back-up documentation.
  • Expense reports for undergraduate and graduate students should include a certification letter signed by a faculty member; for post docs, include either the certification letter or a program showing the post doc as a speaker at the conference. It is best practice to complete and submit the student certification with the transaction. If no certification (or program for post docs) is submitted, the expenses will be considered tax-reportable by the IRS. See Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.2 Section 11.
  • Payments cannot include expenses for spouses, such as lodging, meals, or activities at the conference.
  • Meals included in the conference registration fee or hotel rates must be indicated on the expense report and will be automatically deducted from the applicable per diem rates.
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Dues and Subscriptions

  • Voluntary contributions are not reimbursable.
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Foreign Receipts

  • Foreign receipts must be converted to U.S. dollars. To convert foreign receipts, go to the Oanda web site.

    In the Oanda web site, enter date of receipt, or date the plane ticket was issued (not necessarily the travel date) to get proper conversion.
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Foreign Visitors, Reimbursement Payments

  • In order to pay foreign visitors, Stanford must collect additional documentation such as: copies of the visitor's passport and visa, and a copy of the I-94 Arrival / Departure card, LA-6 (Tax Declaration for Honoraria only), DS-2019 if for J-visa. Non-Stanford payees, or Stanford staff authorized to act on the payee's behalf, submit required documents via the secure Supplier / Payee Request Portal (Supplier Enablement will email the supplier a link when they determine the supplier / payee record is incomplete). This includes confidential banking information to allow electronic payment. See About Supplier / Payee Record Requests and the Supplier / Payee Portal.
  • If the payee is a U.S. citizen but is being reimbursed for expenses paid for a foreign visitor, such as airfare or lodging, the documents listed above must be provided.
  • The Fly America Act requires that travel for Stanford that is funded by government contract or grant must be on a U.S. carrier. The Act applies to visitors traveling to Stanford from a foreign country.
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  • Retirement and years of service gifts that comply with University policy are not tax-reportable. (See Administrative Guide Policy 2.2.10 Section 3) Other gifts (not retirement or years of service gifts) that are valued at more than $50 are tax-reportable, and expense reports must include the payee's Employee ID number and home address for tax purposes.
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Human Subjects

  • If individual payments are $200 or more, or, if the recipient will receive payments totaling $600 or more in the calendar year, the Supplier Enablement group will require social security numbers and banking information in order to process payments. Non-Stanford payees, or Stanford staff authorized to act on the payee's behalf, submit required documents via the secure Supplier / Payee Request Portal.
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Moving / House Hunting Expenses

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Student and Post Doc Expenses

Reimbursement payments to students and Post Doctorates who attend, speak or present at a conference or meeting, or visit a field site or off-campus laboratory, will be tax-reportable UNLESS one of the following two documents are included with reimbursement request:

1.  A signed statement from a faculty member certifying that the travel / activity either

  1. directly supports a faculty project, research or scholarship program, OR ~
  2. is to officially represent Stanford University, OR ~
  3. is an integral part of the student's degree work or is directly related to the student's employment at the University, OR ~
  4. is official University business

See Student Certificate for Authorized Expenses.

2.  A photocopy of the conference program indicating traveler is a speaker or presenter

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See Stanford Travel Program for most advantageous booking and payment methods.

Category Policy

• Travelers should book the lowest available airfare. Stanford Travel has Stanford’s negotiated price and will be used as the benchmark when determining lowest available fare. (Lowest airfare can include costs of ancillary services. See Ancillary Airline Fees.) Unrestricted or refundable airfare is typically not the lowest available airfare. (The lowest available airfare is usually a non-refundable fare.) In rare instances where a refundable fare is less than non-refundable, the refundable fare would be permitted when accompanied by documentation that the refundable fare was less expensive.

• Stanford authorizes air travel in coach class for domestic and international flights. Business class is permissible for international flights with a duration of eight hours or more (including connecting domestic legs, provided there are no layovers). For the University policy on international business class travel, see Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.2: Travel Expenses, and the Class of Fare sectionon the Air Travel page.

• If airfare is charged to a government contract or grant, flights must be booked on a U.S. carrier per the Fly America Act. Compliance with this Act takes precedence over booking the lowest available fare.

• Itinerary / invoice or e-receipt, showing proof of payment, must be submitted with expense report.

Car Rental

• Stanford carries blanket car rental insurance policy for Stanford travelers. Stanford travelers should not accept any other insurance for car rental within the continental US. (Visitors are not covered by Stanford's policy.)

• Outside of the continental U.S. (including Hawaii), traveler should accept insurance.

• Cost of rental car use during personal days must be deducted from reimbursable expenses.

• Rental contract, itemizing all charges and proof of payment must be submitted with expense report.


• Travelers are expected to use lodging that is necessary and reasonable, selecting the lowest standard room rates available.

• No overnight stay is allowed when traveling 50 miles or less each way from Stanford or from home, whichever is farthest.

• Itemized bill showing all charges and proof of payment, unless per diem is claimed, must be submitted with expense report.

• Receipts are not required if claiming per diem reimbursement.


• Laundry is a reimbursable expense only if the business trip exceeds 6 days.

Meals During Business Travel

• You may claim actual meal expenses or per diem (per diem rates are based on city visited).

• If claiming actual expense reimbursement for meals, receipts for individual meal expenses over $75 are required.

• When claiming meal per diem and purchasing a business meal for a guest, only the guest's meal may be claimed.

• Tips cannot exceed 20 percent unless there is a mandatory charge for a large group.

• Meal(s) provided by a conference or included in hotel rates must be indicated on the expense report if claiming per diem reimbursement.

• No meals or per diem may be claimed for one-day travel unless your destination is greater than 50 miles from your point of origin.

Personal Auto Use

• Use shuttle instead of personal auto if two travelers are making the same two round trips to airport, or one traveler is making round trip plus parking for short trips.

• Auto mileage + parking should be comparable to shuttle costs.

• Mileage from home to airport may be claimed when traveling weekends or outside business hours: otherwise, mileage is the distance from Stanford to the airport.

• For local travel or errands, keep a log with date, odometer readings and destination.

• Driving in lieu of flying cannot exceed the cost of airfare plus ground transportation.

Required Documentation for Travel Reimbursement See Policy Notes: Required Documentation for Travel Expense Reimbursement.
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Primary Policy Sources

Administrative Guide Policy 5.4.2, 5.4.3 and 5.4.4

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